Why did Christoph Sauser come out of retirement?
Swiss mountain biking maestro Christoph Sauser has come out of retirement in a bid to win the Absa Cape Epic for a sixth time, so what was it that persuaded him to get back in the saddle?
“Jaroslav (Kulhavy) asked me a few times during the year to race with him again. It began to make me think, and then,when I started to train for the Wines2Whales in October, I realised that I quickly gained shape like in previous years,” Sauser says.
Czech Kulhavy was, of course, Sauser’s partner in two of his victories and will be at his side on March 19 as Team Investec Songo Specialized. Backing them will be two highly accomplished support teams, which Sauser says was also a factor in making him decide to race again.
Sauser’s comments on how he feels after his year-long break from competition also leave you in little doubt: “I have never been more motivated – meaning I am fresh in my mind and my body,” he says.
Asked if being the first to six wins was a factor in his return, Sauser says his yearning to succeed remained the same as when he first took the title back in 2006. “The sixth (win) is for the books and statistics … which I am sure will make me proud when I’m looking back.”
The Sauser and Kulhavy combination has won both of the Cape Epics they have competed in, and the Swiss legend has described his partner as perhaps the most powerful cyclist he has ever ridden alongside.
Sauser says winning would “probably need the same strengths as two years ago, but the big difference will be the density of the field … there are many more teams with backups.” He will be able to fall back on his extensive knowledge of the Western Cape, where he spends chunks of time throughout the year. “It will be my first time racing properly in Hermanus and I am looking forward to it. Greyton I know from the 2014 Absa Cape Epic and Grabouw I know like my own pocket from previous Epics and especially the Wines2Whales.”
Based in Stellenbosch when he is in South Africa, Sauser often trains in the areas where races are staged. Back in South Africa Sauser won both the Attakwas Extreme MTB, and the Grabouw leg of the National MTB Series. Next he will be in action at the Attakwas Extreme MTB, which he will ride with New Zealander Sam Gaze.
He is looking forward to the “challenge of winning the Tour de France of mountain biking”, raising awareness for the songo.info charity and having “the very best team and equipment supporting us.”
Time for locals to set sight on yellow jersey @ Absa Cape Epic
No all-African team has won the Absa Cape Epic since it was launched back in 2004, but Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes want to change that in the not too distant future.
“I think we have matured enough as a team and partnership to set the Cape Epic win as our ultimate goal for the next few years,” Buys says. “We will be disappointed (this year) with anything less than an overall podium and the Absa African jersey.”
The distinctive red jersey in question goes to the first all-African team to finish the event and has become fiercely-contested in recent years.
Former Olympian Buys and his partner Matthys Beukes will be riding under the Team Pyga Euro Steel flag in 2017.
Their biggest challengers for the Absa African special jersey are likely to be Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger (Team BCX), who will bring a compelling combination of experience and youth to the event. This year they will face a fired up Woolcock and Kruger in the battle for the red jersey.
In 2016 Woolcock and Darren Lill took the jersey home at the fourth time of trying. Woolcock has been at or near the top of the South African tree for many years and his experience at the Absa Cape Epic should prove invaluable to younger partner Kruger, who pulled out of his first event last year after being felled by a virus.
“The African Jersey is top priority and whatever overall position comes along with that,” Woolcock says. “Last year I was secretly hoping for a top five and we missed that by one place. This year I feel the overall competition is a lot stronger so it’s going to be interesting.”